adventure through food

(Laila spent a fitful night in the grip of a 103 degree fever. She is so sweet though, and was happily up with her parents at 2am babbling and giggling and generally making a good time out of it all. We undressed her, soaked her little burning head with cool water, gave her ibuprofen and gave her water to drink. She thought it was such a nice interlude to a normally boring night of sleep. Man how I love that little girl.)

This one is about food because food is all I can think about today (I’m tired from last night) and because food is such a HUGE part of the culture here. I have had coffee with exactly 2 Palestinian women here and both of them have asked me within the first 5 minutes of sitting down to our first coffee together whether I am “cooking” and whether I am a “good cook” of Palestinian food. Answer? No.
But I am working on it…
I thought I might share some of the amazing food I’ve found here and also some recipes that I have recently enjoyed making.
Food, glorious food. A hot day at the park today. Snacks fresh from the bakery and fresh from the…um, hummous guy.

This is ka’ki bsim sim or Cake with Sesame Seeds. It’s not really cake, it’s just delicious bread that has a slightly sweet dough and is covered in sesame seeds and then baked. On Fridays, the day off here, people line up (like we did) to get this bread piping hot from the baker. Today we also got falafel from this baker. The ka’ki is always in this oblong shape and it’s best from the baker’s shop but street vendors sell this as well.

Across the street from the baker is the hummous guy we buy from. He sells various dips and salads, but we buy musabaheh (spelling?) from him regularly. This is basically hummous with whole garbanzo beans mixed in and with a lime and salty green chili sauce on top.

Faris describes watching his order of musabaheh being made this way: “the guy takes 2 slops of hummous, a slop of chick peas, and a couple slops of the sauce and mixes it all in…”.
For snack at the park we made sandwiches with the musabaheh , falafel and ka’ki bsim sim. Delicious.

This is Jibneh Nabulsieh, or Cheese from Nablus. It is a seasonal cheese made in Nablus from sheep milk, spices (notably Mahlab)and then heavily brined. The result is these square, hard (as hard as a good aged parmesan), salty cheeses floating in brine. There is usually a bag of spices in the brine as well. This cheese is hands down my favorite cheese in the world. You can boil it and it gets sweet and soft (my favorite and Sufyan’s favorite). You can grate it and use it on pastas. You can bake with it. And the flavor is unique and addictive. A MUST try if you ever get the chance. It’s so good and so synonymous with living in Palestine that Faris’s parents used to send it to us in the USA! The tin on the left is our Jibneh Nabulsieh refill from this year’s batch.

Dried figs and plain almonds. A common snack is to stuff the almonds into the fig and eat it that way. I don’t like dried figs as is, and I could take or leave plain almonds. But together they are amazing and very simple.

Cheese. Just a common goat milk cheese that we use here every day. The kids love it. It is quite salty and has these black sesame seeds in it. Great to accompany fresh salads and fruit.

Olives, of course. But these were made by our loving Sido Sameh. See the peppers in the jar? These have a little kick to them. See the attention to detail? Very clearly this man is an architect as he can even make a jar of olives look beautiful. It seems like olives can be thrown on the side of any meal here and be welcome.

Likewise these black olives in oil were made and grown by Aunt Abla. These are my favorite olives I have ever had. These are very soft and tender, pungent without being overpowering, and delicious.

an essential: olive wood mortar & pestle. This sturdy piece of kitchen equipment cost me less than $5. I almost just want to display it on a shelf … but it comes in so handy for mashing garlic with lemon and salt or grinding spices.

These recipes are tried and true. I made them this week and all are vegetarian friendly and VERY simple. Trust me. You are getting these from an overtired mom trying to make it work over here. I don’t have time for complex or tricky. These are great!
1 Cup Lentils 1 Cup Rice 3 1/2 Cups Water 4-8 Onions (I used 6 for the lentil and rice dish, and 2 for topping. Some people like less, some more but there never seems to be enough topping!) 1 Teaspoon Cumin (I use about a tablespoon or more)
1 teaspoon Cinnamon (I use about 2 teaspoons or more) 1 Teaspoon Salt 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil at least!

Slice the onions. The onions should be sliced long, so they look like a rain bow ver sus diced into small pieces.

Heat pot on med-high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon of olive Oil and 4-6 onions. Cook until onion is caramelized—no seriously. Dark brown.

Add lentils, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add rice and cumin. Cover and simmer for additional 20 minutes.

Heat a frying pan over med-high heat. Add the remaining olive Oil and remaining onions. Cook until fully caramelized and even a bit blackened. This is for topping when you put the Mujadara on plates.

Serve with yogurt and fresh salad (we use cucumber and tomatoes in salt and olive oil and lemon).

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 recipe tahini sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisin
  • 1/4 cup slivered almond
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (optional…I didn’t use them and didn’t miss them.)
  • 1 Preheat oven to 410°F Place head of cauliflower sideways on a large cutting board, and start slicing about 1/2 inch slices across the top. There will be a mess of tiny florets everywhere, that’s okay. When you reach the core, slice the sides of the cauliflower in the same manner. Chop any large florets into smaller bits (about 1-2 inch pieces). Discard the core.
  • 2 Drizzle olive oil over a large baking sheet. Add all the cauliflower to the baking sheet, drizzle with a bit more olive oil and roll around so that cauliflower is coated. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 3 Roast cauliflower for 16-35 minutes, until browned in spots and large pieces of cauliflower are tender when poked with a knife.
  • 4 Meanwhile, while cauliflower is roasting, place raisins in a bowl and pour boiling water over the cover. Let sit to plump. Toast almonds in a skillet until lightly browned and fragrant.
  • 5 Transfer cauliflower to a serving bowl. Drain raisins, and add raisins and almonds to cauliflower, stirring to mix. Drizzle tahini sauce over top (you may not use all of it). Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  • Tahini Sauce

    • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
    • 2 tablespoons tahini (commercial ok, homemade preferred)
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1 dash ground red pepper
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
    • 2 Stir with a wire whisk until well blended.
    • 3 Cover and chill

    Lahme Rooz

  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 lb ground beef or 1/2 lb ground lamb or 1/2 lb ground turkey OR crumbled tofu OR nothing
  • IF you are using Tofu or nothing (or really anything but meat) add some olive oil for richness. You can add this at the end.
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (I don’t used canned)
  • seasonings are to taste. I tend to like a lot of flavor. Start here, adjust as needed:
  • 2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon salt (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (more to taste)

  • 1 Cook rice and set cooked rice aside.
  • 2 In a pot combine onions,chopped garlic,seasonings and ground meat/tofu and brown, try to keep the meat from forming large clumps, you want it taco meat in consistency, so keep stirring often.
  • 3 Once its almost brown add drained can of chick peas and let meat brown.
  • 4 When meat/tofu is browned drain excess fat from pan and add rice and stir until well blended.

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    9 thoughts on “adventure through food

    1. Hey RavynSlowly but surly you are having your elbows immersed in the culture. Food is the doorway to a strange but interesting adventure.The green olive jar is made by Sido Sameh. You can tell by the attention to details of pattern.The olives are this year's harvest, I bought them from the olive-oil press. Next November I will accompany you to visit and see the olive oil pouring fresh from the press. The black olives must be from Abla's, She makes the best tasting black olives.There is a dish of HETALIYEH here, waiting for Sufyan and Family.

    2. I think his may be my favorite post so far. I Love finding out more about the food of Palestine. Seeing that cheese reminds me of dinners at your house in Austin. It's still my favorite cheese! I really want to try the humous/sauce/bread snack. Looks delicious!

    3. oh YUM. your adventure is so fun to follow, and now, my family and i can experience a little bit of it through food 🙂 What type of lentils and chickpeas do you use? for Indian food i love the red ones for both. and do you have a recipe for the cheese? Indian paneer is pretty simple and i make it at home so i'd like to try yours!

    4. Sameh! Oh credit where credit is due of course! I didn't know, but now of course the detail. I love it. Thank you. Kym- I don't make the cheese, I just eat it. But I wish I knew how. Could you share your paneer recipe? I love paneer. Miss you and love you, my friend. Amy-come visit and try it! We miss you all so much.

    5. Hey Rav!I'm making the Mujadara and Roasted Cauliflower tonight! It's our Palestinian dinner (if I had the ingredients I'd make the Lahme Rooz as well, but we'll try that another night)Thanks for the food post — I'm super jealous of the cheeses…

    6. Tonight I made the cauliflower and we had figs/almonds for dessert. All fantastic! I plan to try the other recipes this week too. YUM. Thanks for sharing!

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